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D.C. Council Must Fund Pay-to-Play Law

Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act Was Approved in December, But No Funding Has Been Allocated in FY 2020 Budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The D.C. Council must put money toward implementing a critical good government measure that it passed in December, Public Citizen said today.

The D.C. Council in December approved pay-to-play reform legislation, which will limit political contributions from District contractors to elected officials who have sway over the contracting process. The law is supposed to fully take effect in 2022. But so far, no funding has been allocated in the FY 2020 budget to begin implementation. The D.C. Council is expected to take a final vote on the budget on May 28.

It is estimated that it will take about $1.4 million for the next fiscal year to implement the law. About third of that is to expand a public contractor database so candidates and voters can check to ensure that major city contractors aren’t sending illegal contributions to D.C. Councilmembers and the mayor.

“Eliminating the pipeline between city contractors and the coffers of D.C. candidate and elected officials will go a long way toward cleaning up the corruption that keeps rearing its head in the District,” said Aquene Freechild, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. “Many on the D.C. Council have been working to make local politics less driven by money and more focused on residents. But it’s not enough to pass a powerful law like this. It also must be funded and implemented.”

Even partially funding the measure would ensure its implementation, such as allocating some money for staff time to begin developing regulations, Freechild said. If nothing is allocated in this or the next budget cycle, the law must be repealed, according to statute.

Public Citizen is calling on its District members and activists to contact the Council and urge at least partial funding of the law.

The “Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2018” (B22-0107) was sponsored by Councilmembers Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), David Grosso (I-At Large) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large), with core components introduced by Vince Gray (D-Ward 7) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8). Altogether, 10 Councilmembers and Attorney General Karl Racine contributed reforms that were encompassed in the sweeping reform bill.

In addition to restricting major government contractors from making campaign contributions to those responsible for issuing the contracts, the legislation would ensure the independence of the campaign finance enforcement agency, enhance the disclosure requirements for money in District elections and require that “independent” expenditures be truly independent of candidates and not become a route to subvert anti-corruption laws.